MEMORY MANUFACTURER Toshiba has revealed that it will be flogging the memory modules first shown off in Apple's Macbook Air.
The marketing team at Toshiba has managed to stick a label to the solid state disk (SSD) stick that even Apple CEO Steve Jobs would be proud of, naming the modules the Blade X-gale. The multi-layer cell (MLC) SSD drives pack an impressive punch for their size, with capacities of 64GB, 128GB and 256GB, respectively.
Performance is not too shabby either, with up to 220MB/sec sequential read and 180MB/sec sequential write rates. As for the I/O connections, well that's where things get a little more exotic, with Toshiba offering micro SATA (mSATA) and Half-Slim SSD modules for 64GB and 128GB drives.
Toshiba is claiming that the 64GB and 128GB modules are 42 per cent thinner than typical mSATA drives. The firm brags about "optimised wiring" that helped it achieve those very respectable data transfer rates in such a small form factor. To put the Blade X-gale's performance into perspective, the now aging benchmark of SSD performance, Intel's X25-M, offers up to 250MB/sec sequential read and 70-100MB/sec sequential write performance, depending on capacity.
The 256GB SSD stick is 68 per cent thicker coming in at 3.7mm, though Toshiba has managed to keep the module's length and width the same. The extra thickness comes from the fact that he firm mounted storage modules on both sides of the circuit board.
Scott Nelson VP of the memory business unit at Toshiba America Electronic Components said, "Up to this point, SSD designs also followed the basic design of small form factor HDD [hard disk drive], which does not fully leverage the capabilities of high density NAND technology." Nelson makes a valid point, one that can be verified by looking at one of the many reviews of SSDs that takes the lid off 2.5-inch SSD drives showing gross packaging inefficiencies.
It's not surprising that Toshiba chose Apple as the first customer for its pint-sized SSD sticks. Intel did something similar with its ultra low voltage Core 2 Duo in the original Macbook Air released in January 2008.
Though the chip in that machine had to be aggressively throttled to avoid overheating, it was still seen as a successful showcase for Intel's products and was even promoted as one of the reasons that helped it win Apple's business. Toshiba will be hoping that after seeing Apple use its brand new SSDs in a high profile product, other system builders will look to incorporate its SSDs in order to design similar sized laptops.
What isn't known at this point is whether Toshiba will end up selling the Blade X-gale series of SSDs through retail channels. If so, Macbook Air users will, in theory at least, be able upgrade their systems without having to pay Apple through the nose to buy the kit.
Toshiba did not release any pricing information, though we expect the drives to be priced towards the premium 'thin and light' laptop market rather than netbooks. What Toshiba has shown is a move away from traditional physical drive sizes that were determined by platter sizes.
At the very least, it will allow laptop designers to pack a few more batteries into their gear. µ
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